published Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Trojans, Raiders 2012 favorites?

Eric Phillips found the strength to get and go fishing with fellow Cleveland High School coach E.K. Slaughter early Monday morning. Bradley Central coach Steve Logsdon took his wife to Tellico.

Such were the day-after lives of the Tennessee Division I state championship and runner-up coaches.

Soddy-Daisy's Steve Henry, whose team led after Friday night and got six wrestlers to the finals but lacked the supporting cast to finish the job, was at home Monday taking out his frustration on Nazi soldiers in the video game "Call of Duty 3."

The three southeastern Tennessee wrestling giants battled back and forth with Cleveland finally forging ahead thanks to a phenomenal performance in the consolation rounds. Bradley edged ahead of Soddy-Daisy for second with championships at 215 and 285 pounds, the night's last matches.

"I feel for Steve Henry. You put six in the finals and you win most years," Phillips said.

"Watching Steve Henry with his kids has made be a better coach and a better person," Logsdon said. "Soddy-Daisy was written off last year, and he turned them around. They were as good as Cleveland or Bradley or any other team in the state."

Henry, who said Monday afternoon that he was both washed out and worn out, wasn't so sure.

"It's tough dealing with the fact that you failed," he said. "The whole point is to be on top at the end, and we didn't do that. We were something like 100 points ahead of the fourth-place team, but of the top three teams we were third."

While Cleveland has more returning medalists (11 to 7), Soddy-Daisy has six returning finalists to the Blue Raiders' two. Unlike some who might want to forget about what could have been, Henry is already plotting for 2011-12.

"We were six points from winning. That will be everywhere I can put it next year," he said. "I may get a banner to put up. It'll probably be painted on the wall downstairs [in the locker room], and it will be on our T-shirts," he said. "It's like we weren't even [at the state] for the team title. Half your team accomplished some things, and half were in the stands not doing us any good at all."

The state title, though, was secondary to individual championships, he said.

"Your first objective for them is to get the win," Henry said, "and then worry about bonus points if the opportunities are there."

As it looks now, Cleveland and Soddy-Daisy will be the favorites while Bradley Central, Franklin and Pigeon Forge will be among the dark horses. A step behind them could be Ravenwood, Science Hill and surprising Gibbs.

In Division II, despite graduating a four-year champion in Stuart Doster, a two-time champion in Alex Manley and a three-time finalist in John Mackey, Baylor still appears to be the favorite although it's unlikely the Red Raiders will top the state-record 305 points they scored this year.

Father Ryan, which picks up state champion Michael Hooker from McCallie via transfer, may be the Red Raiders' biggest challenger, although McCallie and Christian Brothers won't be far behind. Brentwood Academy will be the team most likely to test the top four.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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